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Federal Budget Tough Puzzle for Lawmakers

The federal budget for 2013 presents a tougher puzzle than usual for lawmakers peering into the nation's strained pocketbook to figure out how to keep the lights on, services running and national defense sound.

With the national debt rising in the recession, lawmakers visited sequester — automatic spending limits kicking in January 2013 — upon the federal budget. Ever since, they've been furrowing their brows over how to undo sequester or at least control the massive cuts it calls for, especially to defense/.../

Funding for U.S. military operations in the Middle East is set aside in separate legislation, and with U.S. operations winding down in there, it's declining from about $160 billion a couple of years ago to $115 billion this year, said Todd Harrison, a military budget analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The Pentagon estimates war funding at a little more than $80 billion next year, Harrison said. The debate is about the base defense budget, the peacetime costs of the Department of Defense.

Obama's contribution to that debate is to slash the force by more than 100,000 military members in recognition of the United States stepping out of Iraq and reducing its role in Afghanistan, to slow down buying weapon systems and to call for two rounds of base realignment and closure.

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